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Global Freedom of Expression

Lillo-Stenberg v. Norway

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Press / Newspapers
  • Date of Decision
    January 16, 2014
  • Outcome
    ECtHR, Convention Articles on Freedom of Expression and Information not violated
  • Case Number
    13258/09
  • Region & Country
    Norway, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)
  • Type of Law
    International/Regional Human Rights Law
  • Themes
    Privacy, Data Protection and Retention
  • Tags
    Public Interest, Privacy

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protected the right of a Norwegian magazine to publish an article containing photos and descriptions of a celebrity couple’s private wedding; there was no violation concerning the couple’s right to privacy under Article 8 of the ECHR. Even though the wedding was a private event, the fact that weddings have a public component and that no deliberately private facts were unlawfully made public tipped the balance away from the couple’s Article 8 right and in favor of the magazine’s Article 10 right to freedom of expression.


Facts

Mr. Lars Lillo-Stenberg and Mrs. Andrine Sæther are local celebrities in Norway who married in a private ceremony near Oslo. They lodged a complaint against Se og Hør, a magazine that published a two-page article describing their wedding ceremony and displaying pictures of the couple, which were taken without their consent.

Lillo-Stenberg and Sæther alleged that in publishing the article, the magazine had violated their Article 8 right to privacy. The magazine responded that, because Lillo-Stenberg and Sæther were celebrities, their wedding was an event known to the public, and therefore, the article on their wedding reported on a matter of public concern. The magazine further contended that a wedding is, by its nature, a public event, or at least an event with a public component. As such, it had not violated their Article 8 right and prohibiting or punishing the publication of the article would constitute a violation of the magazine’s Article 10 right to freedom of expression.

The Supreme Court of Norway, on appeal, sought to strike the appropriate balance between the Lillo-Stenberg and Sæther’s Article 8 right and the magazine’s Article 10 right. In doing so, it considered Lillo-Stenberg and Sæther’s celebrity status, their past interactions with the press, and the nature of the wedding as an event. That Court concluded that there had been no Article 8 violation. Lillo-Stenberg and Sæther then petitioned the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).


Decision Overview

In examining the decisions of the lower domestic courts, the ECtHR held that there was no violation of Lillo-Stenberg and Sæther’s right to privacy under Article 8 of the ECHR. The ECtHR found that the Norwegian courts had struck the appropriate balance between the couple’s Article 8 right and the magazine’s Article 10 right. The ECtHR reconsidered the celebrity of Lillo-Stenberg and Sæther, their past interactions with the press, and the nature of the wedding as an event. It found the reasoning of the domestic courts to be sound, and, keeping in line with its obligation to give deference to domestic courts where appropriate, the ECtHR concurred with and reaffirmed the decision to find that there had been no Article 8 violation.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

In this case, the ECtHR expands the press’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the ECHR as balanced against a public individual’s right to privacy under Article 8 of the ECHR.

Global Perspective

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

ECtHR decisions are binding on the parties involved.  This decision puts States Parties to the ECHR on notice that the ECtHR defines public interest broadly when weighing an individual’s right to privacy against a newspaper’s right to freedom of expression, especially when the individuals in question are public personalities participating in a somewhat public (if personal) event, such as a wedding.

The decision was cited in:

Official Case Documents

Official Case Documents:


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